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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ART SCAM: LAW UN-ENFORCEMENT






Art scammers Helen Waters of Jacksonville, Florida and Janice Shaw of Savannah, Tennessee broke at least three laws trying to scam my artist friend in an art fraud.




Conspiracy to defraud, U.S. postal fraud, and intent to commit wire fraud are serious felonies that can lead to prison sentences.

While the scam was still in progress, I telephoned the Savannah Police Department and explained that I had identified two real-name scam artists in the midst of perpetrating their crimes; that I possessed a paper trail and various identifiers, including a genuine Wells Fargo bank account; that they (the police), would have an opportunity to apprehend one of the culprits in their jurisdiction if they were interested in taking it over and running a sting.

I was told a Sergeant Snelling would phone me back.

Three days later I'm still waiting.

So, on the basis that two of the crimes are federal, I telephoned the FBI field office in Knoxville, Tennessee.

After about five minutes of multiple automated recordings offering various options, a real human being referred me to a website (www.ic3.gov) to file a complaint by Internet.

Consider that website the trash icon of your computer screen.

Or, as one seasoned PI who'd offered the FBI a high-profile Internet fraud case on a silver platter put it, "They completely ignored me."

So I phoned Western Union's Fraud Hotline and, after a number of automated recordings, connected to a person who seemed not to have a clue about anything, least of all fraud or security.

After hearing me out about snaring a scam-in-progress involving his company, he said, "Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do."

A perfect trifecta.






Tuesday, March 21, 2017

RUSING THE SCAMMER: FINAL ROUND WITH "KEVIN"






KEVIN:

Robert, 
How are you doing this beautiful morning, How's your weekend? I was hoping you would get back to me last night. Let me know as soon as you are done this morning so i can have the shipper contact you as soon as possible to initiate shipping schedules.


ME:  

My morning is more beautiful than ever.  I'm going to ensure you receive today what you are owed.



KEVIN:  

Okay sounds good, Keep me posted.


ME:  

Yup, I just posted.


KEVIN:  

Did you get it done yet ?? 


ME:  

I posted, yes.


KEVIN:  

Okay , Send me a picture of the western union receipt.


ME:


Dear Kevin,

Here's what I posted...


Consider this a receipt.

I hope you have a beautiful day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

ANATOMY OF A RUSE: RUSING THE SCAMMER





Sadly, there is a new scam doing the rounds that preys upon struggling artists.

Here’s how it works, told through a series of e-mails during which I ruse the scammer, who was hoping for me to be its next victim.

The scammer identifies him or herself as “Kevin Waters” and uses the e-mail address kwaters361@gmail.com.  (Scammers using a variety of fake e-mail addresses are out there pulling this scam.)


My name is Kevin Waters from Washington D.C USA. I was looking for some artwork online and i found your contact while searching. I will like to purchase some of your work for my wife as a surprise gift for our 20th anniversary. Please kindly send pics and prices of some of your art which are ready for immediate sale within price range $500- $5000, i could be flexible with price. So i will hope to hear a lot more about any available piece in your inventory ready for immediate sale.


Hi Kevin,

The artist kindly forwarded your e-mail to me because I own many of his paintings and I'm ready to sell a few.  (He is working up a show and has no inventory right now.)

What kind of paintings would your wife most appreciate?  With some guidance I could e-mail you a selection of images and prices.


Dear Robert,
Thanks for the message,  I must tell you I intend to give my wife a surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece. Also If you'd like to know, I'm relocating to Ireland soon and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. So I'm trying to gather some good stuff to make this event a surprise one. I am buying The attached iamge art piece as a gift to her. Let me know the last firm price you are selling this to me, I think it's worth it anyway, so I'll be sending a check.

As regarding shipping, you don't have to worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the surprise. as soon as you receive and cash the check, my shipping agent (who is also moving my personal effect) will contact you to arrange pick-up.

I would have come to purchase the piece myself but, at the moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean (I'm an ocean engineer) with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and won't be back for another couple of weeks. 
Regards,
Kevin.

PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your full name (you want the check payable to) cell phone no. and contact address  where a check can be mailed to, so I can get the check prepared and have it mailed out to you right away. 


ME:  Thanks for this.  Sounds like a great plan!

I can organize the sale of this painting to you for $1,000.

If you want to proceed, send a check to: (my address)

I will then await your instruction re shipping.


KEVIN:  Good morning to you. How was your night and your beautiful day going? Thanks so much for keeping in-touch. I just wanted to inform you that I got a notification from USPS that the check will be delivered to you tomorrow. Here is the USPS tracking # 9405501699320111384108 you can easily get it track via www.usps.com to know exact time it will be delivered but not later than 03:00 PM

Anyway, as soon as you receive the check, kindly take the check to your Bank and get it deposited, I have already been told that the check will get cleared in your account within 1 or 2 business days, but in some exceptional cases the funds are available immediately.

Kindly email me ASAP, so I can give you the shipper's information and instructions on how to wire the balance to the shipper.. My Shipper will contact you to make arrangement for an appropriate time for the pick-up of the Piece.  Thanks and I await to read from you soon. 


KEVIN:  How are you doing today, Please it would be highly appreciated if you kindly forward the overage to Janice Shaw (the shipping agent), without much delay, as the funds will be needed to register and do all necessary paperwork for these goods prior to pick up. Otherwise there would be a late delivery which would ruin the plans for my anniversary. As soon as they receive the funds from you, they'll give you a call to make arrangement and schedule a convenient pick up time with you.

All you have to do is visit any Wellsfargo Bank branch around you with the overage (in cash) and make the deposit or make a wire transfer of $1,550 to the shipping agent information below; 

Bank Name: Wellsfargo Bank
Account Name: Janice Shaw
Account #: 8255822424
Routing #: 064003768
City: Savannah 
State: TN

Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon.


ME:  Deposited your check, thanks, and tried to initiate a wire transfer.  However, my bank needs the address of the receiving bank.  Please send the bank address and I'll try again.



KEVIN:  Here is the bank address as provided to initiate the wire transfer, 6445 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38119. 



Kevin’s check, for $2,550.00, arrived in a USPS priority mail envelope.


The return address:

Perry Wade
Hubert Construction LLC
9055 Comprint Court, #150
Gaithersburg, MD

Hubert Construction truly exists but, needless to say, no one there knows a “Perry Wade” other than a slew of calls asking for him...

The check (JP Morgan Chase Bank) is stamp-signed Joanne Gagliardo from a company called WestBow Press, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington IL.




The checkbook from which it derived is either stolen or fabricated.  In a word, fraudulent.


During a phone call to Wells Fargo Bank on Poplar Avenue in Memphis, despite account confidentiality, I was able to confirm that the account is genuine, in name and number.
   

(It is very hard these days for anyone to open false-name bank accounts, so Janice Shaw must really exist.) 

The manager, Marci, said she would investigate and take action.  (I suggested she scrutinize the account's past transactions.)

Usually, scammers instruct their victims to send cash via Western Union.

But Janice Shaw of Savannah, Tennessee, must be getting sloppy and desperate.

And then, just when you think you've got it figured, the scam grows another dimension...

I press "Kevin" further, saying my bank requires Janice Shaw's address as a prerequisite for transmitting funds.



ME:  Ok, so I tried to initiate the transfer and my bank asked for the address of the account holder, your shipping agent.  If you can send that to me a.s.a.p. I hope to get this done before my bank closes today.


KEVIN:  Thanks, Yes I sent the address already in the previous email 


ME:  I think you are mistaking the address of the Wells Fargo branch address in Memphis for the shipping agent's address.

This is what my bank has requested.  

Bank rules are getting stricter all the time.  Sorry, I have no control over this; it's frustrating for me, too.

So, again, just to be certain you understand:  My bank needs the address of Janice Shaw, your shipping agent, to whom the funds will be wired.

Once you provide the shipping agent's address, the bank will transfer the funds.

If you want the funds wired today, you're running out of time.


KEVIN:  Below is the shipping agent (Janice Shaw) address as requested.

Address: 3333 Hacks Cross Road, Memphis, TN 38125. 


ME:  Great, thanks.


KEVIN:  Were you able to initiate the wire transfer? Please let me know so I can keep the shipping agent posted.


ME:  I'm almost ashamed to tell you this:  The bank said they need an apartment number as part of the address.  And also a phone number.

The good news is:  my bank is open until 2 p.m. today, so there's still time.
Please send me the apartment number and phone number in the next half hour and I'll be able to send the funds.


KEVIN:  Are you kidding me, stop playing games ok. I sent all necessary information to initiate the wire transfer 


ME:  It's not coming from me; it's coming from the bank.  The address apparently needs an apartment number to be complete.  The phone number they should have asked me for yesterday, sorry.

If it's difficult for you to supply an apartment number and a phone number, maybe there's another way to do this, the hell with my bank.


KEVIN:  Can you locate any Walmart store near you??


ME:  There is a Walmart in Lompoc, about an hour away.  

I may be able to get there tomorrow.  Assuming we aren't able to do the bank wire today (less than half hour to close), how do I send money to your shipping agent through Walmart?  (I've never done it before.)


KEVIN:  Kindly send the funds at any Walmart store located near you. Kindly locate Walmart Money Transfer in the store (Walmart to Walmart) to send the funds to the information below, you are to get back to me with a picture of payment receipt for confirmation. 

Name: Helen Waters
Add: 11423 Elaine dr, 
City: Jacksonville 
State: Florida
Zip code: 32218


Hmm.  A new name, a new destination, 644 miles from Savannah, TN.

Question:  is this a real person at a real address?

Bingo!


11422 Elane Drive, Jacksonville, FL


Helen I Waters


Age 35-39
11422 Elane DrJacksonville FL 32218-4016

(A very slight variation of the address, probably by design, but obviously a match.)


So now we have two scammers, Janice Shaw and Helen Waters.

  
ME:  I don't understand.  I thought I was supposed to send the money to Janice Shaw, your shipping agent?


KEVIN: Janice Shaw would not be able to receive funds via Walmart Money Transfer since you were not able to initiate wire transfer. Helen Waters is able to pick up funds at Walmart located near her and I will have her contact you when funds are received to initiate pick up plans. Let me know when the funds are sent to Helen Waters tomorrow. Due to the time frame, we have limited time to get this done. I will be waiting to read from you.


ME:  Why can't I send the funds to Janice Shaw at a Walmart in Memphis, near her Wells Fargo bank branch?


KEVIN:  You can send to Janice shaw via wire transfer only. She does not allow Walmart as a payment option. Let me know what you decide as this is getting too complicated. I don't know what you are up to

KEVIN (again):  Do you live in Tennessee? So why going to Memphis to locate a Walmart.  I don't understand you.

This tips me off that "Kevin" is an idiot, and having trouble keeping track of the scam. 

ME:  No, I thought Janice Shaw lives in Memphis, TN, because that's where she has a bank account.



KEVIN:  Okay let me know what you decide and how to send the overage balance to the shipping agent (Helen Waters). We have little time frame 


Now is the time to let "Kevin" stew for a short while, let her feel like maybe she's blown the scam, that no money is coming her way.


And then I brighten her day...




ME:  I'm thinking Western Union might be the best option since it's closer to me than Walmart.  Could that work for you?


Because I'm thinking, who knows, this might turn up a third name.


Next morning (a Sunday), this message comes in at 4:33 a.m., strongly suggesting that out culprit is Helen Waters on the east, where it was 7:33 a.m.



KEVIN:  Good morning Robert, i hope your night was wonderful. I contacted Janice Shaw last night. She will be able to do Western Union and have the funds picked up at her nearest location, since the bank were unable to initiate wire transfer yesterday. Kindly go ahead and send the funds to Janice information below via Western union since it's closer to you.

Name: Janice Shaw
State: Tennessee 
City:  Savannah
Zip code: 38372



Kindly get back to me with picture of the receipt when it'sa done. I will be waiting to read from you.



First of all, men don't say "How is your beautiful day going" and "I hope your night was wonderful."  These are female phrases.


Second, we've got Janice Shaw, again, she with a genuine bank account at a Wells Fargo branch in Memphis, Tennessee, and now we discover that Janice is physically present in nearby Savannah to receive cash at Western Union.

Which all strongly suggests that Helen Waters is running the operation as "Kevin" and Janice Shaw, in Tennessee, is her co-conspirator.

I am 99 percent certain I have identified Janice Shaw through her Facebook account and her residential address, but I will not publish without 100 percent accuracy.  (All I'll say is, she looks like a meths addict and likes playing Internet Bingo.)

And so, a final volley between Kevin and me:


Kevin:  How are you doing this beautiful morning, How's your weekend? I was hoping you would get back to me last night. Let me know as soon as you are done this morning so i can have the shipper contact you as soon as possible to initiate shipping schedules.





ME:  My morning is more beautiful than ever.  I'm going to ensure you receive today what you are owed.




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